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beta-Ketoadipate:succinyl-coenzyme A transferase (beta-ketoadipate:succinyl-CoA transferase) (EC 184.108.40.206) carries out the penultimate step in the conversion of benzoate and 4-hydroxybenzoate to tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates in bacteria utilizing the beta-ketoadipate pathway. This report describes the characterization of a DNA fragment from Pseudomonas putida that encodes this enzyme. The fragment complemented mutants defective in the synthesis of the CoA transferase, and two proteins of sizes appropriate to encode the two nonidentical subunits of the enzyme were produced in Escherichia coli when the fragment was placed under the control of a phage T7 promoter. DNA sequence analysis revealed two open reading frames, designated pcaI and pcaJ, that were separated by 8 bp, suggesting that they may comprise an operon. A comparison of the deduced amino acid sequence of the P. putida CoA transferase genes with the sequences of two other bacterial CoA transferases and that of succinyl-CoA:3-ketoacid CoA transferase from pig heart suggests that the homodimeric structure of the mammalian enzyme may have resulted from a gene fusion of the bacterial alpha and beta subunit genes during evolution. Conserved functional groups important to the catalytic activity of CoA transferases were also identified.